MLT City Council OKs Sound Transit right of way, with a strong message

Councilmember Laura Sommore
Councilmember Bryan Wahl

The Mountlake Terrace City Council voted 6-1 Monday night to approve an agreement with Sound Transit that will provide the agency with right of way access for light rail construction at 222nd and 219th Streets Southwest where they border Interstate 5.

The lone no vote came from Councilmember Laura Sonmore, who for months has been pushing Sound Transit to address council concerns regarding construction of the Mountlake Terrace light rail station. The station is part of the Lynnwood Link project set to be completed in 2023. The council refused to vote on the Sound Transit right of way agreements at two meetings earlier this summer, in an effort to pressure the agency to address issues ranging from station design to escalating costs to tree removal to additional commuter parking.

The transit way agreement was supposed to be routinely approved along with other items on the council’s consent agenda. But Sonmore asked that it be pulled off for a separate council vote. “I want to send a huge message that cooperation with the City of Mountlake Terrace is imperative,” she said. “I know the people who have so diligently put their money, time, effort into looking at the transit system deserve not a cheapened system. I think we deserve a light rail system that has restrooms and all the stops.”

At last week’s Aug. 17 council study session, Sonmore grilled Sound Transit officials about the future of various station amenities, including restrooms, based on concerns that the agency is reviewing its budget due to escalating construction costs across the region. While Sound Transit officials assured councilmembers Aug. 17 that they would not remove restrooms without the city’s consent, Sonmore remained steadfast Monday in her efforts to keep the transit agency accountable to the city.

“If we’re not being vocal about it, we’re going to get stepped on,” Sonmore added.

Councilmember Bryan Wahl, who has been equally aggressive in pushing Sound Transit to address the city’s issues, said that while he “strongly” echoed Sonmore’s sentiments, he would be voting for the agreement because of the need to expedite the process for Sound Transit to acquire federal funding for light rail construction.

“It’s imperative Sound Transit understands that we’re not going to take a back seat to being railroaded through this process, and we’re going to stand up for what’s right for Mountlake Terrace,” he said.

Later in the meeting, the council’s discussion returned to Sound Transit and ensuring that the agency keeps its commitments to the city when it comes to station design.

“I have no intention of letting off on my concerns of how Sound Transit is treating us,” Wahl said. “We need to ensure we have a quality station, at the end of the day.”

Wahl pointed to the money Sound Transit spent — reported by our online news partner The Seattle Times to be $858,379 — for a party celebrating the opening of Seattle’s Capitol Hill and University of Washington stations in March 2016. “Don’t tell me you don’t have enough money to put together a quality station here,” Wahl said.

Wahl also suggested that the council follow up on a suggestion, made during the public comment period by Mountlake Terrace resident and city council candidate Stephen Barnes, that the city put something in writing outlining what Sound Transit has agreed to regarding station design. Wahl suggested the council prepare a resolution indicating the “entire council on behalf of the city is standing up for the city, and making it very clear to Sound Transit what we expect them to deliver.”

Also during the public comment period, resident Terrill Herberg presented a petition from homeowners living on 53rd Avenue West between 228th and 230th Streets Southwest requesting the city’s help in reducing traffic speeds on the roadway, which poses a safety hazard for families with children living there, as well as those going to and from Mountlake Terrace Elementary.

“Everybody’s using that [53rd Avenue] as a thoroughfare, like 56th,” Herberg said, adding that cars are running stop signs and driving between 35 and 45 mph in a 25 mph neighborhood.

In response, City Manager Scott Hugill said the city will take a look at the neighbors’ concerns as part of its traffic calming program. Next steps will include measuring speeds of vehicles, doing some targeted police patrols and educating commuters about their driving habits, Hugill explained. If those measures are ineffective, he said, the city can look at other ways to resolve the issue.

Also on Monday night, the council:

– As part of its consent agenda, approved a contract with Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs to provide state lobbying services, and a 2017-2018 Interlocal Agreement for Snohomish County Regional Drug and Gang Task Force.

– Approved a contract with Price & Associates PLLC to become the city’s prosecuting attorney. The current prosecuting attorney, Sandy Sullivan, is moving out of state.

– Opened a public hearing on the city’s tree regulations but extended it to Sept. 5 because an earlier Planning Board public hearing on the matter was delayed for lack of a quorum.

— By Teresa Wippel


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